St. Pancras’ Well, Scampton, Lincolnshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid reference – SK 9542 7853

Archaeology & History

Site shown on 1886 map

Mentioned in Thompson’s (1999) survey but without comment, it was, curiously, Skyring Walters’ (1928) that drew my attention to this site.  He added it to his list of St Pancras sites, telling how even in his day, it had fallen into memory.  Indeed, it had already gone when the Ordnance Survey lads came here in 1885.  Thankfully we were left with an albeit piecemeal account of the place by Cayley Illingworth (1810) before its destruction. It was an iron-bearing well that existed some fifty yards from an ancient Roman villa and was probably the water supply for the Romans who lived here.  He told us:

“The circumstance…of the chalybeate spring within a few yards from the entrance of the villa, and still called Saint Pancras Well…favours the conclusion of a chapel having been erected on its site.  (This) is supported by the strong evidence of a discovery, upon record, that a chapel dedicated to Saint Pancras did actually exist on this spot, so early as the beginning of the twelfth century; about which period Richard Fitz-Robert of Scampton gave to the monastery of Kirksted three selions of land in that lordship, two of which are described in the gift as lying in the south field, on the south side of the chapel of Saint Pancras.”

He further told that at the bottom of the well an oak floor had been laid, which had been dug up “several years ago.”

St Pancras’s festival date is April 3.

References:

  1. Cameron, Kenneth & Insley, John, The Place-Names of Lincolnshire – volume 7, English Place-Name Society: Nottingham 2010.
  2. Harte, Jeremy, English Holy Wells: A Sourcebook – volume 2, Heart of Albion Press: Loughborough 2008.
  3. Illingworth, Cayley, A Topographical Account of the Parish of Scampton in the County of Lincoln, T. Cadel & W. Davies: London 1810.
  4. Thompson, Ian, Lincolnshire Springs and Well, Bluestone: Scunthorpe 1999.
  5. Walters, R.C. S., The Ancient Wells, Springs and Holy Wells of Gloucestershire, St Stephens Press: Bristol 1928.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Chalybeate Well, Blockley, Gloucestershire

Healing Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SP 166 350

Archaeology & History

This is one of several iron-bearing wells (chalybeates) that used exist in and around the village.  Mentioned briefly in Alfred Soden’s (1875) history of the parish, he told that,

“years ago, there were several chalybeate springs here, very strongly impregnated.  One of these was at the lower end of Westmacott’s Lane: of this spring there is now no visible trace, it having been built over.”

Although Mr Soden said nothing about the healing properties of this well, due to the mineral composition of chalybeates they always tend to be good fortifiers or pick-me-ups, being good for the blood.  And in this case, as the waters were “very strongly impregnated” they would have possessed some considerable local renown.

References:

  1. Soden, Alfred J., The History of Blockley, J.W. Parbury: Coventry 1875.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Horley Green Spa, Halifax, West Yorkshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – SE 10263 26561

Also Known as:

  1. Horley Green Well
  2. Spa Well

Archaeology & History

William Alexander’s 1840 sketch of the Spa house

The historian William Addison (1951), in his history on the subject, told how “the spas began as holy wells”; and although no direct accounts are left of early dedications here, the remnants of Mayday traditions tell us there were more archaic goings-on before the waters were taken by the aristocrats.  Once it had been designated as a spa, the waters were covered and a typical Spa House constructed over them.  From hereon, for more than a century, the waters were accessible only to those with money who wished their ailments to be treated.

Between the end of the 18th to the end of the 19th century, the Horley Green Spa was a very prominent ingredient in the history of Calderdale.  A chalybeate or iron-bearing spring, its waters were directed into a large underground cistern covered by metal.  Thomas Garnett (1790) was the first to write about it, telling us:

“The Horley Green water is quite pellucid—sparkles when poured out of one glass into another—and has a sharp, aluminous, styptic taste, not unlike ink. The taste is not unpleasant when the water is taken from the springhead and drank immediately.”

He went on to espouse the waters to be good in healing bone and rheumatic diseases, giving many first-hand accounts from people in Yorkshire and beyond who used the waters here with apparent success, including one case of curing diabetes!  Its reputation was later reinforced in a book by William Alexander (1840), who told us how,

“I unhesitatingly affirm that the Horley Green Spa possesses a very strong claim to be regarded as a powerful tonic and chalybeate.”

By the time those words were written, it had already gained a considerable reputation and many were those who’d received treatment.

Spa House on 1894 map

A years after Alexander, the roving doctor A.B. Granville (1841) visited Horley Green—who described it as “a renowned steel-water Spa”.  But at the same time he reported how its popularity had started to decline.  But, via one Mr West, he did leave us with a greater chemical analysis of the Horley Green waters in an attempt, once more, to certify and prove its curative properties.  Their results found the waters to possess, in varying quantities, lime, magnesia, silica, iron oxide, sulphur and silica—all of which further attributed the science of its medicinal actions.   A number of case histories of the people cured here can be found in the works of Granville, Garnett and Alexander.

The well-house that stood here eventually fell into disuse.  When it was eventually restored as someone’s home in the the late 20th century, the disused spring was found beneath the foundations, filled with stones.

Folklore

Horley Green’s spa well came about as a result of local people visiting the site around Beltane, probably for centuries before the aristocrats and early pharmacists took their hand to the place.  But once the spa became renowned, people could only gather here “on the first Sundays in the month of May,” with Sunday being that legendary ‘day of the lord’ crap, to which the people would abide to save them from prosecution.  It is obvious though that it had been used as a place of magick thanks to the snippets of lore which have found their way into local history books.  We read how, at 6am, people gathered here, to such an extent that the roads were completely crowded.  Those who arrived first were given bags of nuts: an archaic traditional motif found at many pre-christian wells in Britain.  Occultists and ritual magickians amongst you will note the time when folk frequented the well, at 6am: the time when many nature-spirits are invoked for full effects.  We find this time echoed in the ritual gatherings at Lady or St. Anne’s Well in Morley, just a few miles to the east.

References:

  1. Addison, William, English Spas, Batsford: London 1951.
  2. Alderson, Frederick, The Inland Resorts and Spas of Britain, David & Charles: Newton Abbot 1973.
  3. Alexander, William, The Horley Green Mineral Water, Leyland & Son: Halifax 1840.
  4. Alexander, William, “On the Mineral Springs of the Parish of Halifax,” in Proceedings Geological & Polytechnic Society, West Riding, Yorkshire, volume 1, Edward Baines: Leeds 1849.
  5. Crabtree, John, Concise History of the Parish and Vicarage of Halifax, Hartley & Walker: Halifax 1836.
  6. Garnett, Thomas, Experiments and Observations on the Horley-Green Spaw, near Halifax, George Nicholson: Bradford 1790.
  7. Granville, A.B., Spas of England, Henry Colburn: London 1841.
  8. Hembry, Phyllis, The English Spa 1560-1815, Athlone Press: London 1990.
  9. Short, Thomas, The Natural, Experimental and Medicinal History of the Mineral Waters of Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, privately printed: London 1724.
  10. Short, Thomas, A General Treatise on Various Cold Mineral Waters in England, privately printed: London 1765.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Redman’s Spa, Bingley Moor, West Yorkshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – SE 1159 4343

Also Known as:

  1. Redmire Spa
  2. Redmond’s Spa
  3. Richmond’s Spa

Getting Here

Redman’s Spa on 1851 map

From East Morton village, take the moorland road, east, and up the steep hill.  Where the road just about levels out there’s a right turn, plus (more importantly!) a trackway on your left which leads onto the moor.  Walk up this track for ⅔-mile until you get to the point where the moorland footpath splits, with one bending downhill to an old building, whilst the other smaller footpath continues on the flat to the north.  Go up here for 400 yards then walk off-path, right, for about about 150 yards.  But beware – it’s boggy as fuck!

Archaeology & History

On this featureless southern-side of Rombalds Moor, all but lost and hidden in the scraggle of rashies, a very boggy spring emerges somewhere hereabouts.  I say hereabouts, as the ground beneath you (if you can call it that!) is but a shallow swamp and its actual source is almost impossible to locate.  If you want to find the exact spot yourself, be prepared to put up with that familiar stench of bog-water that assaults our senses when we walk through this sort of terrain.  Few are those who do, I have found… But somewhere here, amidst this bog—and still shown on the OS-maps—is the opening of what is alternatively called Redman’s or Richmond’s Spa.  We don’t know exactly when it acquired its status as a spa-well, but the 18th century Halifax doctor, Thomas Garnett—who wrote the early work on the Horley Green Spa—appears to be the first person to describe it.  Garnett (1790) said how the place:

“was first mentioned to me by Mr W. Maud, surgeon, in Bradford, who went with me to see it.  It is situated on Romalds-moor, about two or three miles from Bingley, and goes by the name of Redmire-spaw.  The access to it is by no means good; the ground about it being very spongy and soft.  On the bottom and sides of the channel is deposited an ochrey matter, of a very fine, bright, yellow colour; and which I believe is used, by the country people in the neighbourhood, to paint their houses.  It sparkles when poured into a glass and has a taste very like the Tewit-well at High-Harrogate; which water it very much resembles in all its properties, and seems to be about the same strength… This water seems to hold a quantity of iron dissolved by means of fixed air.  Its taste is very pleasant; it is said to act very powerfully as a diuretic, when drank in considerable quantity, and may prove a useful remedy, in cases where good effects may be expected from chalybeates in very small doses; the fixed air, and even the pure water itself may be useful in some cases.  It is, however, necessary to drink it at the well, for it seems to lose its iron and fixed air very soon.”

I’ve drank this water, and believe me!—it doesn’t quite taste as pleasant as Mr Garnett espouses!  Its alright I s’ppose—but drinking water from a bog isn’t necessarily a good idea.  That aside, I find it intriguing to hear so much lore about such a little-known spring; and it is obvious that the reputation Garnett describes about this spa came almost entirely from the local people, who would have been visiting this site for countless centuries and who would know well its repute. Below the source of the well the land is known as Spa Flat, and slightly further away Spa Foot, where annual gatherings were once held at certain times of the year to celebrate the flowing of the waters.  Such social annual gatherings suggests that the waters here were known about before it acquired its status as a spa—which would make sense.  The remoteness of this water source to attract wealthy visitors (a prime function of Spa Wells) wouldn’t succeed and even when Garnett visited the place, he said how he had to travel a long distance to get here.

The origin of its name was pondered by the great Harry Speight (1898) who wondered if it derived from the ancient and knightly Redman family of Harewood, whose lands reached over here.  But he was unsure and it was merely a thought.  As an iron-bearing spring (a chalybeate) you’d think it might derive from being simply a red mire or bog (much like the Red Mire Well at Hebden Bridge), but its variant titles of apparent surnames casts doubt on this simple solution.

No one visits the place anymore.  Of the countless times I’ve wandered the moors, rare have been the times when I’ve seen folk anywhere near this old spring.  It is still coloured with the same virtues that Garnett described in the 18th century: the yellowish deposits, the boggy ground, much of which reaches to the truly dodgy Yellow Bog a short distance north and which should be completed avoided by ramblers after heavy rains (try it if y’ don’t believe me—but you’ve been warned!).

References:

  1. Garnett, Thomas, Experiments and Observations on the Horley-Green Spaw, near Halifax, George Nicholson: Bradford 1790.
  2. Short, Thomas, The Natural, Experimental and Medicinal History of the Mineral Waters of Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, privately printed: London 1724.
  3. Speight, Harry, Chronicles and Stories of Old Bingley, Elliott Stock: London 1898.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian


Mineral Well, Glen Lyon, Perthshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – NN 72110 47768

Also Known as:

  1. Iron Well

Getting Here

Mineral Well, Glen Lyon

From Fortingall village, head west and turn down into the incredible beauty that is Glen Lyon.  As you enter the trees, a half-mile along you pass the small gorge of MacGregor’s Leap in the river below.  2-300 yards pass this, keep your eyes peeled for an old small overgrown walled structure on the left-hand side of the road, barely above the road itself.  A large tree grows up above the tiny walled enclosure, within which are the unclear waters that trickle gently….

Archaeology & History

In previous centuries, this all-but-forgotten spring of water wasn’t just a medicinal spring, but was one of the countless sites where sympathetic magick was practised.  The old Highlanders would have had a name for the spirit residing at these waters, but it seems to have been lost.  The site is described in Alexander Stewart’s (1928) magnum opus on this stunning glen, where he wrote:

“Still a few yards more and Glenlyon’s famous mineral wishing well is seen gushing up, surrounded by its wall of rough stones now sadly in need of repair.  It has a stone shelf to receive the offerings of those who still retain a trace of superstition or like to uphold old customs as they partake of its waters.  The offerings usually consist of small pebbles, but occasionally something more valuable is found among them. The roadmen may clear that shelf as often as they like, but it is seldom empty for long.”

A local lady from Killin told us that she remembers the stone above the well still having offerings left on it 20-30 years ago. Hilary Wheater (1981) sketched it and called it the Iron Well.

Close-up of the waters (photo by Paul Hornby)
Hilary Wheater’s sketch

The waters in this small roadside well-house actually emerge some 50 yards up the steep hillside (recently deforested) and in parts have that distinct oily surface that typifies chalybeates, or iron-bearing springs – which this site is an example of.  Its medicinal properties would help to people with anaemia; to heal women just after childbirth; to aid those who’d been injured and lost blood; as well as to fortify the blood and stimulate the system.

Across the road from the well, Stewart (1928) told of a giant lime tree that was long known to be the meeting place for lovers (perhaps relating to the well?), and the name of the River Lyon here is the Poll-a-Chlaidheamh, or ‘the pool of the sword’, whose history and folklore fell prey to the ethnic cleansing of the english.

References:

  1. Stewart, Alexander, A Highland Parish, Alexander Maclaren: Glasgow 1928.
  2. Wheater, Hilary, Aberfeldy to Glenlyon, Appin Publications: Aberfeldy 1981.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian


Old Red Well, Knapwell, Huntingdonshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – TL 3381 6300

Also Known as:

  1. Red Well

Getting Here

If you wish to find it park the car at the church and follow the footpath beside the church and after crossing the stream and style turn right and continue along the woods passing the information centre (where a wooden box holds maps) and then after a few feet one reaches a small clearing and a path leads to the right into the woods. Take this and this will lead to the well.

Archaeology & History

The origin of the name ‘Knapwell’ is unclear: Cnapa may be the name of the first settler, or simply ‘boy’ ‘moneylender’ or even ‘mound’ referring to the earthworks to the end of the present village.  The site is doubtless ancient and probably pre-Christian origin. Interestingly, one wonders whether the boy meaning is the correct one considering another Cambridgeshire site, the Barnwell on the outskirts of Cambridge has the same suggested origin. It may suggest that the local tribes here perhaps washed their infants in its water in a ritual fashion. There is some evidence of wells associated with ritual washing in other locales so it is possible. Knapwell is first mentioned in a will by A.D. 1000, and the settlement is noted in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Chenewelle, being held by Abbot of St Benedict of Ramsey. However, this was the estate not the well so nothing should be implied from Ramsey Abbey’s ownership.

 

Folklore

The well was the sole source of freshwater for both Boxgrove and Knapwell parishes and footpaths still lead from both communities to the well. Knapwell was also known as Little Wellesworth indicating the importance of this and The Victoria County History notes for Knapwell:

‘..named from the chalybeate Red Well, supposedly medicinal, in Boxworth Wood just east of the village.’

Like many Chalybeate springs, healing traditions are attached to it but curiously no details are recorded.

The water was well thought of well into the 20th century, for the Parish guidebook, KNAPWELL VILLAGE And The Parish Church of All Saints (1978) notes:

“Within living memory a drinking cup used to hang on the small brick arch over the spot where the spring rises.”

Archaeology

The spring produces copious but sluggish red water and is protected  by a red brick domed or arched well house similar to those of Holywell and Longstanton. When I visited the well is in fear of collapsing, and had deteriorated over a number of years, but recent pictures suggest it is in better condition.

Copyright Pixyledpublications

Re-posted from the following blog

http://insearchofholywellsandhealingsprings.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/one-for-the-children-or-the-moneylenders-the-old-red-well-of-knapwell/

Forthcoming from Holy Wells and healing springs of Huntingdonshire


Jim Craven’s Well, Thornton, West Yorkshire

Sacred Well:  OS Grid Reference — SE 0967 3251?

Archaeology & History

Is this the site of the lost Jim Cravens Well on the 1852 map?

Another well with considerable supernatural renown was this little-known site near the old village of Thornton, on the western outskirts of Bradford.  We’re not 100% sure about its exact location, but the grid-reference cited here is of an old ‘Well’ that was highlighted on the first Ordnance Survey map of the region, at the end of solitary path which led to it and nowhere else.  Our only documentary information comes from Elizabeth’s Southwart’s (1932) fine old book on the folk life of the old village, as it once was.  At a place once known as Bent Ing Bottom, just south of the old village, is where it used to be known.  The name of this Well is also curious, as no historian has yet worked out who the ‘Jim Craven’ was, nor what his relationship to the site might have been.  It’s the folklore of it, however, which brings it the attention it deserves.

Folklore

In Elizabeth Southwart’s (1923) work, she told us that the place once known as “Bent Ing Bottoms have lost their romance.” She continued:

“Whether the golfers have driven it away—for the fields now form part of the Thornton Golf Links—or whether the advance of modernity in other forms is to blame, it is difficult to say.  Once they were the haunts of “Peggy-Wi-T’-Lantern” and the Bloody-tongue.  Peggy, a dame in a white mob cap, kilted skirt and white stockings, walked about with a lantern, enticing the unwary traveller to his doom.  She was given to wandering, for, they say, Jim Craven Well, half a mile away, was a place to be avoided after nightfall.

“The Bloody-tongue was a great dog, with staring red eyes, a tail as big as the branch of a tree, and a lolling tongue that dripped blood.  When he drank from the beck (known as the Pinch Beck, PB) the water ran red right past the bridge, and away down—down—nearly to Bradford town.  As soon as it was quite dark he would lope up the narrow flagged causeway to the cottage at the top of Bent Ing on the north side, give one deep bark, then the woman who lived there would come out and feed him.  What he ate we never knew, but I can bear testimony to the delicious taste of the toffee she made.

“When the dark was coming we used to sit on the filled-in pit, which makes a hump in the middle of the field, and wait for him.  The sun would sink redly, through the arches of the viaduct, the trees that lined the beck would grow an ever darker green until they became black, the beck would begin to gurgle and gulp in a queer way; and down in the hollow we would hear a whimper, a whine, a moan, a snarl.  Then, with scalps and spines playing queer tricks, we would wait and wait.  But none of our little band ever saw him, except one girl, and she saw him every time.

“One Saturday a girl who lived at Headley came to a birthday party in the village, and was persuaded to stay to the end by her friends, who promised to see her ‘a-gaiterds’ if she would.  As soon as the party was over the brave little group started out.  But when they reached the end of the passage which leads to the fields, and gazed into the black well, at the bottom of which lurked the Bloody-tongue, one of them suggested that Mary should go alone, and they would wait there to see if anything happened to her.

“Mary was reluctant, but had no choice in the matter, for go home she must.  They waited, according to promise, listening to her footsteps on the path, and occasionally shouting into the darkness:

““Are you all right, Mary?”

““Ay!” would come the response.

“And well was it for Mary that the Gytrash had business elsewhere that night, for her friends confess now that at the first sound of a scream they would have fled back to lights and home.

“We wonder sometimes if the Booody-tongue were not better than his reputation, for he lived there many years and there was never a single case known of man, woman or child who got a bite from his teeth, or a scratch from his claws.  Now he is gone, nobody knows whither, though there have been rumours that he has been seen wandering disconsolately along Egypt Road, whimpering quietly to himself, creeping into the shadows when a human being approached, and, when a lantern was flashed on him, giving one sad, reproachful glance from his red eyes before he vanished from sight.”

Southwart later tells us that the ghostly dog travelled into the north and vanished.  From the description she gives of the children walking their friend to “the end of the passage which leads to the fields, and gazed into the black well, at the bottom of which lurked the Bloody-tongue,” I can only surmise that the solitary well shown on the very first OS-map of Thornton at the coordinate given above is the place in question.

The ‘Bloody Tongue’ is first mentioned in Yorkshire folklore, I think, by Roger Storrs, in his article on holy wells in 1888, where he tells it to be one of the mysterious beings that live, usually at the bottom of the waters and almost universally used “to deter children from playing in dangerous proximity to a well.”

From the description of the waters turning red when the ghostly dog drank from it, we have a mythic account of when the waters occasionally turned red from the iron-bearing waters (chalybeate) which, obviously, wasn’t like this at all times.  Whether this was a sporadic, unpredictable flow of iron in the waters, or a cyclical pattern of the water-flows, we are not told (which would imply, moreso, that it was sporadic).  The folklore about this ghost and its appearance with another elemental creature along an old straight track running north from Upper Headley Hall to Thornton is intriguing—as in many old pre-christian traditions, North is the airt, or direction, representing Death; and black dogs are traditionally guardians of underworld treasures in the land of the Dead.  With the plethora of other animistic folktales once known in this district (boggarts or goblins were known in nearby woods, wells and farms) it is likely that the origin of such folklore dates way back into antiquity.

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, Ancient and Holy Wells of West Yorkshire, forthcoming
  2. Southwart, Elizabeth, Bronte Moors and Villages: From Thornton to Haworth, John Lane Bodley Head: London 1923.
  3. Storrs, Roger, ‘Legends and Traditions of Wells,’ in Yorkshire Folk-lore Journal – volume 1 (ed. J. Horsfall Turner) 1888.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian


Red Well, Alloa, Clackmannanshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – NS 87385 93435

Getting Here

The somewhat ruinous old well

Along the A907 a mile west of Alloa and heading towards Tullibody, just before the roundabout across the road from the school fields, a small entrance takes you into the small wooded parkland.  There, right in front of you as you walk in, and visible from the road, is the enclosed architectural stone walling and somewhat ruinous remains that are the Red Well, with its faded name carved on top.

Archaeology & History

Red Well on 1913 map

Although the waters no longer run for the people to drink, this old iron-bearing spring was long of repute to the old folk of eastern Alloa.  So much so, it seems, that even Janet & Colin Bord (1985) included it in their national survey of sacred wells!  Like other chalybeate springs, its waters were known to be good as a tonic—which makes sense as iron fortifies the blood and general immune system.  The Well was highlighted on the 1913 OS-map of the area.

References:

  1. Bord, Janet & Colin, Sacred Waters, Granada: London 1985.
  2. Morris, Ruth & Frank, Scottish Healing Wells, Alethea: Sandy 1982.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian


Mineral Well, Dollar, Clackmannanshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – NS 9855 9804

Also Known as:

  1. Dollar Chalybeate Spring
  2. Dollar Spa
  3. Vicar’s Bridge Spa

Archaeology & History

Vicars Bridge spring on 1900 map

Somewhere hiding away above the north-side of the River Devon, just above the Vicar’s Bridge, a little-known healing well came into being following industrial workings in the glen in 1831 by a local iron-working company.  The waters were strongly chalybeate, or iron-bearing—and as the fad amongst the wealthy was, at the time, a love of Spa Wells, this mineral spring was broadcast as a competitor of the Harrogate and Bath Spas.  But it failed pretty fast, sadly.

Bottles of the water were marketed and sold as ‘Dollar Mineral Water’ in many of the large cities, but sales weren’t too good.  Johnston & Tullis (2003) pointed out how the waters would have been coloured like brandy; and despite it being good for anaemia, a good tonic, and favourable in treating cuts and bruises, the mineral spring was no longer of any value as a business, dying a quick death.  Local people still kept using the waters, but in recent years the spring appears to have died too.

References:

  1. Johnston, Tom & Tullis, Ramsay (eds.), Muckhart, Clackmannanshire: An Illustrated History of the Parish, MGAS 2003.
  2. Morris, Ruth & Frank, Scottish Healing Wells, Alethea: Sandy 1982.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian


Mineral Well, Portobello, Edinburgh, Midlothian

Healing Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NT 314 735

Archaeology & History

This was one of two medicinal springs that could once be found in old Portobello village. Like its companion Chalybeate Well nearly a mile northwest, in the early 19th century those entrepreneurial types tried fashioning these waters into being a Spa Well.  It didn’t really work and the fad passed after just a couple of decades—and soon after the local people had completely lost their water supply here.  The best historical account of it is in William Baird’s (1898) magnum opus on Portobello.  He told how the well,

“was, at the beginning of the century, situated in a garden near to the main road, where there was a well with drinking cups for the accommodation of visitors, a small sum being charged from those using it.  The supply here having in some way become interrupted the spring was neglected for a time. It found vent, however, lower down and nearer to the Promenade at the foot of Joppa Lane. About fifty years ago there was a pretty large open basin, in the centre of which the water bubbled up about half a foot. It was of a red brick colour. Unfortunately on the starting of a pump on the Niddrie Bum to drain the water from the Niddrie coal pits, the supply of water was again interrupted, and this excellent mineral spring, which was strongly impregnated with oxide of iron and sulphate of lime and magnesia, ceased to flow with its former fulness.”

In 1869, the Industrialists dug into the Earth to construct their promenade and, after countless centuries, the waters of this old medicinal well finally died and fell back into the deep Earth…

References:

  1. Baird, William, Annals of Duddingston and Portobello, Andrew Elliot: Edinburgh 1898.
  2. Bennett, Paul, Ancient and Holy Wells of Edinburgh, TNA: Alva 2017.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian